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Curt Hogan

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About Curt Hogan

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    Shop Owner
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  1. Curt Hogan

    Is AAA your Competition?

    Since I am no longer affiliated with AAA I don't know all the particulars, but local shops that are AAA approved have recently received notice that the program is changing. There is a whole new set of rules and requirements to participate. During my conversations with other owners, their biggest concerns are a discount is now mandatory and they now require you to agree to begin work on AAA customers vehicles within 1 hour of wrecker drop off! There are other requirements but they escape me now.
  2. Curt Hogan

    Relay Operator Automotive Scams

    We have been recieving this call 2-3 times a week for the last 1.5 years. It is almost always an Escalade that is to be towed from out of state. This issue for me is I, and I have instructed my advisors to play the game until the time we are sure its a scam call. This can take 4-5 minutes due to the typing and response time. I am always afraid I may act to quickly and terminate a legitimate call. I instruct me employes to inquire immediatly as to the make of vehicle and its location. If its an Escalade or its out of topwn, terminate the call by stateing that we are unable to take paymernts by phone.
  3. Dave, I have some ideas for you as I too am an Auto Care Center owner and have used Tracs for 7 years now and i am very happy with the product. I am on vacation right now (OK guys, no bagging on me for being on here during vacation) but I will respond in depth when I get the time. In the meantime, at least do this, call your NAPA store and ask them to set your list price on all lines at 50% profit margin in their TAMS system. This will get you much closer to your goal and when you update an estimate the newly set list prices will apply. Hope this helps Curt
  4. Curt Hogan

    Alignments

    We always charge more money when additional labor is required. We use Specialty Products (Oriellys carries them in our area) and their catalog has a fairly accurate labor guideline for every product the sell. When asked to cost for alignment our answer is always " Our base alignment is XX.XX which allows us to make corrections to all alignment angles that were made adjustable from the factory. If your vehicle requires kits,cams or shims to fine tune the alignment, those will be extra". This usually opens new dialogue about what a kit, cam or shim does and allows myself or my adviser to put on our educator cap and explain why these items are needed and what benefit the client can expect for his or her money. I then close with "tires are getting more expensive these days, spending a few extra dollars today, if needed, to extend tire life just makes good sense to me, wouldn't you agree"? Its their car. Don't decide the repair for them. You didn't buy it, build it or break it. Offer the client the option to repair it correctly and watch how many agree with you. Can you do that? Sure, Is it easy? Not always but we seem to be pretty successful at it anyway. Give it a try, you might surprise yourself.
  5. Curt Hogan

    I'm Hiring another Advisor

    Joe, Congratulations on your decision. Please keep us advised on the progress of your mission. I have been contemplating a similar move starting with another technician and then another service adviser. The problem we face is a problem some would love to have. Myself and my adviser average 40-50 incoming phone calls a day, between the 2 of us. If we are heavy on service and I have to go into production, he has to field those calls himself along with writing estimates, calling customers, ordering parts and playing cashier. Processes need to be changed to aid in the flow of work through the shop but we have been so activity based for so many years that it has gotten out of hand. I think I know how and what to do to change things, but I am to busy to impalement the changes. Maybe following your journey will help to motivate me to take the plunge.
  6. Curt Hogan

    Parts mark-up and advertising

    WOW, where do I start. Do yourself a favor and ditch the 9.95 oil change idea. If cheap customers are what you are after this kind of promotion will get you just that. I just returned from the Vision High Tech Expo in KC this evening. I attended 3 days of some fantastic management and marketing training. The first thing I can advise you is this, get some training. It is available through your parts vendors. I know for a fact that NAPA, Carquest and Oriellys have training available for either free or at very reasonable prices. These training options are usually in CD or Tape form and on the internet. Check out this link for some great training options Automotive Management Institute (AMI) Join BNI, http://www.bni.com/ and participate, Join ASA, Automotive Service Association Automotive Service Association ( ASA ) and get involved. You will surround yourself with sharp business people and make some great friends at the same time. By the way, as I told you earlier, I just returned from management training this evening. After 25 years as a shop owner I still try learn and better myself.
  7. Curt Hogan

    Vacation Sales Lesson

    Here is one that I like. The sale most often goes to the most interested party --Steve Chandler 100 Ways to Motivate Yourself
  8. is back from training at Vision. Man are the guys going to hate to see me tomorrow :)

  9. Curt Hogan

    Hello all

    Welcome, as a new business owner you have stumbled into a potential gold mine of information here. There are many learned people on this site who will be happy to help you any way we can. Your question started me a thinkin...............what did I do for advertising when I had a new business and a limited advertising budget. In the early days we used to have a local printing company ( not many personal computers around way back in 85) print a one page flier or door hanger with a special offer. Next, I would contact a local group such as a Boyscout troop, church youth group or a similar group and offer a donation to their organization in return for delivering the fliers door to door to homes within 5-10 blocks of your shop in every direction. You will be shocked at the number of neighbors that did not realize you were even there. Now let me explain what I think a special should be. My specials are always a service we offer at the regular price but I add value by adding an extra that I can make sales suggestions from. How about an oil change at XX.XX and with this new client special we will include both a 21 point safety inspection and a free tire rotation. My thinking here is my oil change will be paid at regular price, the 21 point safety inspection is something you should be doing with every oil change anyway. The tire rotation is just so you have the chance to inspect the brakes. Focus on VALUE rather than price. LOF in our shop does not stand for lube,oil and filter but for Labor Opportunity for the Future. Please, please, please, whatever you do resist the temptation to offer a discount on labor. You will struggle mightily to get paid for all the hours you spend on a car as it is , don't cheat yourself right out of the gate. Just my 2 cents worth. Use what you like and ignore what you don't. Remember this is like a buffet, if you don't like the broccoli , don't eat it!
  10. Curt Hogan

    Hogan Muffler & Brake

    Hogan Muffler & Brake is a family owned and operated business that has been serving the Topeka and surrounding areas for the past 25 years. Don't let our name fool you. We offer a complete menu of auto services for your car, light truck or SUV. We even have a 30,000 lb lift to accommodate your commercial truck or motorhome. From factory scheduled maintenance and timing belt replacement to the most complete brake and steering and suspension service, we are here to keep you safe, satisfied and mobile. Stop by and see us today at Hogan Muffler and brake, where good enough is never good enough!
  11. Curt Hogan

    Why Can’t You Give Me a Price?

    This has been a very trying question for me for years. I will quote standard services. Services for which I have standard costs. Oil changes, tire rotations, fluid flushes etc. are services I will quote. Brake jobs, and even exhaust work we try not to quote by phone. Does that mean we never quote these services? Of coarse not. There are those who you will never get to your door without quoting a price of some kind. I spend thousands of dollars to make my phone ring, why would I alienate even one potential new client because some management guru says never quote price? So give them one, only as a last resort and only because you are losing them and you have applied all your best tactics and talents to no avail . But be very clear its an estimate and more than likely the final cost will be higher. Converse with your caller! Its OK to be honest with them. It fun to be humorous with them, just be careful not offend them. There is a fine line between being humorous and being a smart ass. Here my spiel. Caller: "Can you give me a price for brakes on my 03 Impala" Adviser: To be honest, it is very difficult to estimate the cost of brakes without visually inspecting the vehicle. Would you like me to schedule an appointment for you to inspect your brakes. Caller: "No, I just want a price" Adviser:" I understand, but I'm sure you want me to give you an honest estimate don't you?" Caller: " Of coarse I want an honest estimate, so how much for brakes"? Adviser: " If I'm being honest with you, without a crystal ball, I cant tell you what your car will require to bring the brakes back to safe operation until I have looked at them. Caller: "Well XYZ gave me a price over the phone". Adviser: "Well then, may I ask why they are not repairing your brakes" ? Caller: " Well............. I am trying to find a better price". ( this folks is what this conversation is all about for the caller) Adviser: If it the lowest price your after, I'm probably in trouble here, however, if you are looking for the best value for the money spent then I am your guy. Caller: "The brake squeak is driving me nuts, I don't understand why you cant just give me a price". ( this lady is a tough one) Adviser: If I give you a price over the phone, quite honestly, I would be guessing and that's not fair to you. We have a saying around here. "if its squeaking or leaking, smokin or broken or hissing or missing, there is no way we can guess at the cost to repair it until we see it. Caller: " HAAA that's funny" Adviser: "I'll make you a deal, if you will give me 30 minutes of your time I promise to give you a complete estimate to stop the squeaking. 30 minutes to save your sanity seems like a no brainer doesn't it? Caller: Yeah, I guess your right. Adviser: " what works best for you, tomorrow or Thursday"? Most calls, I would guess 95% or better ,should end here with the appointment made and the call ended .......................but, you ask, what if this is a really tough one and a quote is the only way you will get any consideration for the work? So give them a quote, but have fun with it. You will lose them if you don't so make the quote on your terms. Conversation continued Caller: Neither.............. until I know what its going to cost. Adviser: "OK look, I will make you a deal, I will give you a quote for the most basic of brake service so you have an idea of the starting point but in return, you gotta promise not to freak out on me if it is in fact more money to make the repair than we discussed. Cuz I told you it it would likely be just an estimate. You promise?" Caller: "OK" Adviser: "Our most basic brake service is XXX but remember this is just the basics and we will know exact costs after we inspect the car. Now will tomorrow or Thursday be better"? Does this work with all customers? Nope, but I submit to you, this tactic will help you turn more callers to customers if you try it and it did not cost you a dime. Give it a try, and remember, smile when you answer the phone, callers can hear a smile!
  12. We were never told for sure but when I originally asked the 3 investigators, one of them said "the EPA has people who surf the web looking for violators" I have a website where I sell performance exhaust components for GM Supercharged V6 cars. All 27 violations were catalytic converters part numbers we sell on our site. That why we think the website was target but it makes no sense due to the fact that I am not the largest player in this market . Nor do I get the exposure this competitor does. However if he were to alert the EPA he would be self reporting because he sells off road pipes which I don't.
  13. OK guys, I have to admit that this story not only alarms me, it makes me more than a little PO'd. This is liable to get a little long winded but please bear with me while I explain. The bait and switch portion I understand and I totally agree with BAR. Moreover my upbringing tells me that practices such as these are not only illegal, they are wrong? Legally, morally and ethically wrong..............period. The part that alarms me is that, even though these stores were found guilty of actions that go against everything I know and everything I am, the bait and switch was not the only issue here. There were many references to unnecessary rotor refinishing, brake adjusting and brake cleaning. All of which I sell on a very regular basis. What constitutes necessary? If it is not written in the OE manual as a normal service procedure, does this mean they are unnecessary? I am sure I am not the only one who sometimes see OE engineers as misinformed brainiacs who, on their best day, would likely struggle to accomplish the tasks of an entry level automotive technician. We all know the importance of a brake fluid flush. Brake fluid is hygroscopic, which means it is prone to draw moisture at the same time copper ions wear from the brake lines and further contaminate the fluid. Replacing the fluid removes the infected fluid and restores fluid with the proper boiling point and helps to protect other brake components from damage. Look at your factory maintenance schedules. Not many require brake fluid flushes. The full article as presented by link on the Brake & Front End website cited instances of brake adjustments being performed on "automatically adjusting" brake systems, we all know how well those work! Brake cleaning? According to the authority's in California the worn material from brake shoes in and enclosed environment must magically disappear on its own. If it does not disappear could it not effect brake balance, efficiency and therefore motorist safety? Do you see where I am going here? Are any of us a official inspection or a undercover sting operation away from a situation that could spell reputation disaster? Now before you ask,"who peed in this guys post toasties" or wonder if I may be the brother in law of Mr Glad, let me tell you my story. On a Monday morning in Jan of 2009 I opened for business as normal at 8:00 in the morning. At 8:05 three gentlemen strolled through my door who looked like outside salesmen from any number of companies who have called on many of you through the years. I thought to myself, I must be pretty important to command the whole team, until the badges came out. The Environmental Protection Agency credentials sent a cold chill up my spine that I will never forget. These inspectors were visiting me, all the way from West Virginia on alleged violations of the clean air act. I was ready to fully cooperate. After grilling me for 7 hours, copying every one of my invoices for the prior 6 months (even rolled in their own copy machine) and inspecting my shop, warehouse, personal and employees vehicles, they left at 4:00 pm with the parting words, we will get back to you. Now, keep in mind they could not or would not tell me what they were looking for, why I was targeted or who made the allegations against my company. 2 weeks after the visit one inspector called and asked for a complete list of all the part numbers of catalytic converters I sell. I faxed that information requested and the wait continued. I spent the next few months wondering where we go from here? What do they think? Are they working up a case against me? Have they found nothing and just decided to drop it? Is there a period of time like a statute of limitations that has expired? The longer this continued the less I slept and the angrier I became. These people were questioning my integrity. For years I had hoped that some of my competitors would be caught for illegal activities and brought to justice. Now I was being accused of something, although I was unsure then then even what that something was. Finally, the last week of Sept 2009 The registered letter arrived. At least I would know the charges against me and prepare a defense. I opened the letter and found charges of 27 violations of the clean air act and the corresponding fine of 37K! However as a first time offender I was eligible for a expedited settlement of 14K if I paid in 30 days (kinda seems like extortion to me). What were the violations? 27 counts of selling used catalytic converters. Now is where things get really interesting. I call the big wig listed on the registered letter and after allowing him to conference call another agent and a supervisor the 4 of us try to decipher this little fiasco. I ask for the numbers of the invoices that show the violations. "I don't have that information" was the reply. "Then how am I to defend myself if I don't know what led you to this conclusion"? This is when the supervisor chimed in and informed me that the invoices in question had 3 part numbers of converters that she was not familiar with and " I am the aftermarket converter expert here" she said and "if those numbers do not exist then they must be concocted to hide non compliant units" WOW, that makes no sense at all was my response. I asked what I had to do to assure those numbers were in fact fully compliant part numbers and EPA certified units? The first agent said "fax me a letter from the manufacturer stating that they are EPA compliant and invoices from your supplier showing your purchases of those same numbers and quantities during the 6 months included in the investigation and we will consider the evidence. I called Carsound \ Magnaflow and asked for the information the EPA requested which was faxed to me the next morning. i then faxed that letter along with my supplier invoices showing the purchase of those 27 units in a 7 month period to the EPA on a Thursday morning and waited again until Wed of the next week. The caller ID showed US Gov and a out of town area code. Finally a response, and the conversation went like this. "Well Mr Hogan, it seems there has been a mistake on the part of our contracted inspectors. The information you provided clears up this matter and we now consider the investigation closed. I hope my story makes each and every one of you think about your processes and procedures. I certainly hope that cleaning and adjusting the rear brake shoes on a customers vehicle does not bring "the man" after me again. Mine was a little different scenario that that of the Midas shops but look how the experience turned my life upside down for 10 months. Many sleepless nights that I hope to never experience again. Thanks for suffering through this lengthy post. Good luck and a prosperous 2010 to you all.
  14. Curt Hogan

    Brake Cleaner Hazards

    I must chime in here. I have been using Garys soap along with his other products for about 5 years now. The brake rotor hone and rotor conditioning spray are two products my brake techs will not be without. I must admit that we use the soap to wash each newly machined rotor but have not tried it as a way to clean prior to starting service. Is that what you suggest Gary?


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